Old-Time Banjo

Frank Lee
55-minute Video, Includes tab on pdf file
  • Code:DLFRABJ21
  • Skill Level:Near-Beginner (2)

Frank Lee, of the sensational old-time band The Freight Hoppers, has one of the strongest banjo sounds around. His clawhammer frailing style locks in tight with David Bass' fiddle, sometimes doubling the melody and other times providing an exciting counterpoint to it. Frank's rhythm playing highlights the solid tempo established by Cary Fridley's guitar and Jim O'Keefe's bass, making The Freight Hoppers' ensemble sound irresistible.

On this lesson, Frank breaks down the traditional clawhammer style that has become his trademark. He teaches seven great tunes and the "tricks of the trade" that make his playing stand out in the field of old-time players. You'll learn right hand techniques for drop thumb playing and how Frank gets his percussive upbeat clucking sound; his use of a pick on his middle finger; and the details of his banjo set-up.

Frank starts off with Wade Ward's Half Shaved, a "crooked tune" in C tuning. He discusses the "diddy-bop lick" and analyzes all of the techniques necessary to play the tune. Then he launches into Cider Mill, a high-energy tune using the famous "Galax" lick.

Moving to G tuning, Frank teaches some invaluable exercises to improve technique and musicianship -- no matter what style you play -- such as "the spider," a powerful exercise to loosen your left hand. You'll also learn closed chord positions, scales, chord substitutions (6ths, 7ths, minor 5), movable G and D position chords, and other important information to allow you to play up and down the banjo neck.

One of the hallmarks of old-time banjo is the vast number of unusual tunings that players use. Frank teaches two tunes in EBEB, Shaving a Dead Man and Shortnin' Bread. He then moves into GDGDE for Stony Point (also known as Pigtown Fling), and it's back to C tuning for Hell Broke Loose in Georgia. David Bass joins Frank to show how a banjo and fiddle work together in a traditional tune like Sandy Boys, and then the entire band joins in for a rousing finale.


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